EYE ON DIAGNOSTICS: Viewing the small intestine via capsule endoscopy

April 2004 
Volume 34  Number 4
Pages 70 - 71
  PDF Version Available!


  • How CE works

  • Preparing the patient for CE

  • Drawbacks and limitations

  • Camera in a capsule




  • Figure. No caption a...

    THE SMALL INTESTINE is difficult to evaluate because of its length and location. The first 4 feet (120 cm) of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, and upper portion of the small intestine (duodenum), can be visualized via gastroscopy. The last 6 feet (180 cm) of the GI tract (colon and rectum) can be visualized by colonos copy. But the 20-foot (600-cm) section of the small intestine that lies in between is difficult to access by endoscope.

    Now a new and less invasive endoscopic method called video or wireless capsule endoscopy (CE) has been developed to gather images of the small intestine. Unlike standard endoscopy, CE doesn't require insertion of an endoscopic tube into the GI tract. Instead, the imaging apparatus is contained in a capsule not much bigger than a large vitamin tablet, which the patient swallows. (See Camera in a Capsule .)

    Capsule endoscopy is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an adjunct to traditional endoscopy to assess obscure GI bleeding bleeding of unknown origin that persists or recurs after negative colonos copy or upper endoscopy.

    How CE works

    After it's swallowed, the capsule moves via normal peristalsis through the GI tract. As it travels, it radios signals to a flat, flexible sensor attached to the patient's abdomen; the sensor sends information to a data recorder that the patient wears on a belt around his waist. This information is later downloaded to a computer, which creates video images.

    After he swallows the capsule, the patient can resume most normal activities while the equipment gathers data. After about 8 hours, ...

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